Pandemic accelerates tech spend for 60% of global retailers

Six out of 10 retailers globally, will accelerate spend on technology due to the pandemic.

A Zebra Technologies global shopper study has found that more than 80% of decision makers view smart checkout, workforce software and prescriptive analytics as key emerging technologies by 2025; and that six out of 10 retailers globally, will accelerate spend on technology due to the pandemic.

Business solutions provider, Zebra Technologies Corporation, has revealed the results of its 13th annual Global Shopper Study. This is the industry’s only market tracker that analyses the attitudinal behaviour of shoppers, retail associates and retail executives and examines the retail and technology trends impacting shoppers’ purchasing behaviour both in-store and online. Zebra’s annual study found shoppers expect a seamless experience between stores and online; and are increasingly placing orders online because of desired product availability, resulting in a surge of ecommerce orders with nearly 60% placing an order in the last three months. With more than one-fifth of shoppers returning an item purchased online, 57% of store associates are feeling significantly challenged by these returns. Out-of-stocks also remain a challenge and 41% of shoppers say this is the top reason for leaving stores without a purchase. This is followed by long checkout lines (32%) and an inability to find items (31%) both representing a marked increase from last year.

  • Growth in mobile ordering: Retail decision-makers and store associates have seen a dramatic increase in the need for convenience and efficiency as the pandemic has catapulted shoppers’ usage and affinity for mobile ordering and smart-checkout solutions. Mobile ordering – from smartphones and tablets – has experienced tremendous growth and been instrumental in helping maintain social distancing and adherence to local guidelines. Seventy-two percent of shoppers used mobile ordering and 82% of those shoppers are highly likely to continue using it. Millennials (88%) and Gen X (79%) shoppers were the primary users of mobile ordering but nearly half of Boomers (47%) used it too, and 74% of them are likely to continue using it in the future. Sixty-four percent of shoppers believe more retailers need to offer mobile ordering while the vast majority of decision-makers (90%) and store associates (83%) agree mobile ordering would help meet customer expectations.
  • Smart checkout leads to better experience: Approximately half (47%) of surveyed shoppers have interacted with self-checkouts in the last six months and more than six in 10 (63%) of shoppers agree self-checkout solutions provide an improved customer experience. While agreement is highest among Millennials at 73%; 66% of Gen X shoppers and 50% of Boomers have also realised an improved customer experience from self-checkout solutions in the last year. Meanwhile, 86% of retail decision-makers and 71% of store associates agree self-checkouts improve the customer experience. Almost nine in 10 decision-makers and more than seven in 10 associates believe self-checkouts freed employees up to do higher priority tasks and better serve customers while helping meet health and safety mandates and protocols.
  • Safety now part of in-store experience: Consumer and associate confidence can be increased when precautions or safety measures are put into place. Currently, there is a sizable trust gap between retail decision-makers, shoppers and associates when it comes to health and safety. While approximately 90% of decision-makers think shoppers and associates trust them to make health and safety a priority, only 65% of shoppers and 77% of associates agree. Nearly two-thirds (67%) of shoppers are concerned with surface sanitation or social exposure in stores, and 59% of shoppers prefer stores with contactless payment options. Seven in 10 associates say social distancing/contact tracing apps would allow them to provide a better customer experience.

“Our study found that shoppers’ in store and online satisfaction significantly declined this year due to out-of-stocks, product variety, online delivery cost and timing and returns,” said Jeff Schmitz, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, Zebra Technologies. “Retailers are aware that success hinges on elevating the shopper experience and investments in analytics, mobile ordering and smart checkout will provide a more seamless and satisfying omnichannel experience.”

Key regional findings


  • Seven in 10 (70%) shoppers prefer direct delivery of items rather than picking them up at a store.
  • Sixty-five percent of shoppers prefer shopping at stores with contactless payment options.


  • More than eight in 10 (83%) decision-makers say the pandemic accelerated their implementation plans for mobile devices and solutions – the highest score of any region.
  • Approximately three-quarters (76%) of shoppers prefer to shop at online retailers that also have brick-and-mortar locations.


  • Eighty-seven percent of shoppers agree the use of technology helps retailers provide a safe, comfortable, and convenient experience, the highest score of any region.
  • Almost 90% of shoppers have used mobile ordering and intend to continue using it.


  • Seventy-two percent of store associates prefer to have prescribed tasks rather than reading reports to help them manage their day.
  • More than three-in-four (77%) decision-makers reported feeling pressure to improve fulfillment operations and efficiency so they could offer a variety of delivery options and speeds.

Zebra’s 13th annual Global Shopper Study included approximately 4,175 shoppers; 577 retail associates;  and 412 retail executives from North America, Latin America, Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Middle East who were interviewed in August – September 2020 by Azure Knowledge Corporation.


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